The role of NATO and tech in Libya's success

A Libyan rebel sits atop a vehicle patrolling the streets of the almost deserted eastern Libyan city of Ajdabiya.

Stacey Vanek Smith: Rebel forces in Libya have reportedly seized control of the country. NATO officials say part of the victory was thanks to U.S. aerial surveillance that tracked the Libyan military and fed information to rebel fighters.

Here to talk with us about this is New York Times senior reporter Eric Schmitt. Good morning, Eric.

Eric Schmitt: Good morning, Stacey.

Smith: So Eric, how much of the Libyan rebels' success should be credited to the technological help from NATO forces?

Schmitt: I think quite a bit actually, and most of it has been behind the scenes. For the last several months, NATO aircraft have been providing important surveillance and reconnaissance information back to NATO targeting cells in Italy. These in turn help the planners guide the war planes guide the war planes in that have been attacking some of the Libyan government forces. Most recently in the last few days in Tripoli, just in advance of the rebels' final push into the Libyan capital.

Smith: And if I understand correctly, it wasn't just NATO -- the rebels were also using technology on their own to communicate more effectively over the past few weeks. Has there been something of a learning curve for rebels using this technology?

Schmitt: Yes, very much so, Stacey. Remember, this is very much a rag-tag militia, if you even want to call it that when it first started. But with the help of special forces advisers from Britain, France and other countries; equipment coming from some Gulf countries. The rebels have formed into a serviceable military on the ground. The combination of their improving and the NATO aircraft pounding away at the Libyan forces has proven in the last several days to be a kind of, be the final push apparently, for the Gaddafi regime.

Smith: When NATO gets out though, when their mandate to protect civilians expires, does the organization and communication fall apart, or will it go forward?

Schmitt: Well this will be one of the big questions to follow is: who will maintain security? How long will NATO stay in the area? And of course, the big question -- where is Muammar Gaddafi himself? And what role, if any, will the European countries and NATO in general be playing trying to hunt him down.

Smith: Eric Schmitt is a senior writer for the New York Times and co-author of Counter-strike: The Untold Story of America's Secret Campaign Against al-Qaeda. Eric, thank you.

Schmitt: Thank you.

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